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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Unusual hummingbird day

Got up early-early to go south banding with Kelly Bryan, the hummer guru. We went to Lajitas first, where we banded 6 hummers (5 Anna's and 1 Rufous), then while Kelly was off cleaning their feeders I saw an adult male Allen's. He wouldn't go into the trap, and he was molting. Unfortunately, Kelly didn't see him. Then a short while later, while banding at our friend, Bonnie Wunderlich's home near Terlingua, I saw another adult male Allen's. This time I was able to get some distant photos looking into bright light, but better than nothing. He also has white molting pinfeathers here and there.

After we left Bonnie's we went directly to CMO, where Kelly caught another adult male Allen's while I was off filling feeders, but I got to see it in his hand. Number 3 for the day.

When we finished banding there (1 adult male Lucifer was a recapture that we originally banded in August of 2009) we headed back to Alpine, weary and satisfied with the day's results. The Lucifer was Kelly's first February capture of that species. When I got to my Alpine home, lo and behold, I saw another adult male Allen's come to my feeders there shortly before dark. I had seen him occasionally at dusk the past week but  likely being banded, he was real skittish. I had to take my photos through windows. Number 4. How's that for a Four-star February day.

He's also molting and has white pinfeathers on his head and chin. I don't remember any other February where I saw more than one Allen's, if that. And I don't remember a single day where I ever saw more than one, maybe two, adult male Allen's, so it was, all in all, an unusual hummer day.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not the best laid plan

I decided to demonstrate how the most recent corn feeder version provides a clear shot of the Varied Thrush. Here is the feeder. (I'm crossing my fingers, but the javelina didn't uproot it during the night.)

So I sat and waited for the thrush, planning to get a clear shot of it, something almost impossible to do with the big trash can feeder that required a stile to get over the fence to it for filling. Seems what with the shade from a bush and a branch a few inches above the ground I need to keep tweaking.

While I waited, I snapped a couple more shots of the White-throated Sparrow that's been here all winter also.

UPDATE: After posting this I decided to check out the oasis one last time for the day. It was 6 PM. When I got there I immediately heard a Lucifer Hummingbird. I think this is the earliest I've ever had one here. Got a photo of the male, but the banded female was too elusive.

More butterflies

I'm surprised to have butterflies in the winter time but I saw 5 or 6 species today. Here is a male Pipevine Swallowtail, always a lovely species to behold.

And a male Queen

My favorite capture of the day was a species I don't remember photographing before, a Southern Dogface (female). I must tell you that if I post the butterfly's sex, it's because my dear lepidopterist friend, Brian Banker, told me. I'm lucky if I get some of the IDs right.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thrush is wearing out its welcome

Yesterday some birders emailed me to tell me they visited the oasis and saw the Varied Thrush. So the poor thrush went 3 days without being fed. I felt terrible. I went down today with a happy birder who photographed his lifer thrush after I put out cracked corn, sunflower seeds, and wild bird seed. (I wanted to compensate for the 3 days of neglect). The thrush didn't act like he'd been starved when I put out the chow. He only made a few brief appearances.

Interesting, to me, was that the White-throated Sparrow that had been using the temporary corn feeder (that I dismantled) moved to the other feeders at the oasis when the cracked corn was gone, but the thrush never did. He just kept scrounging around in the same area.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to figure out something that he'll use, javelina can't destroy or feed from, and won't block photo ops. A tall order, for sure.

Meanwhile, I photographed a new butterfly species for me personally, and possibly for the oasis. Not sure. I'll have to check past journals to see if anyone has recorded it here before. Without further ado, here is my first Funereal Duskywings.

PS: The lepidoptrist friend who ID'd it for me told me it was a male. I didn't find a prior record of that species at the oasis, but the name sounds familiar. It's for sure new for me personally.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Thrush gone, I believe

I sat near the feeder for over 2 hours this morning where the thrush always comes in and feeds within 30 minutes of my arrival. It never came in, and I think it left. I'm fine with that, but while the wind wasn't blowing at the oasis, when I got to Alpine at midday, it was raging from the NNW, right in the direction the thrush needs to go.

Here's the last photo I took of it yesterday, gorging on cracked corn.

Of course I can't know for 100% sure it left, but I feel confident that it did or I would have seen it in the time I sat there. I went ahead and dismantled the temporary trash can feeder because the javelina were digging holes all around there, trying to get under the fencing to the corn. If the thrush is gone I didn't want them to be attracted to that area. I plan to take mulch down next trip and refurbish the spot. We're forecast for south winds tomorrow, so hopefully the bird will be fine. It lacked 3 days of spending 4 months at the oasis. Its visit will go down in the oasis annals as one of the highlights. I hope it has a safe trip to its breeding grounds. Who knows, maybe it'll show up at the oasis again this fall.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thrush maybe revving for take off

After spending a good percentage of its life here (4 months), I heard the Varied Thrush make a series of short buzzy trills early this morning. Maybe his programming is getting ready for his trip north. We're forecast for south winds to arrive I think. Would be good timing. If you go to this site and listen to the song, what I heard was the next to the last call on the track.

Since I'm older and less strong every year I thought I should get an early start on tank cleaning, so have started that. I had ordered an expensive tank sealer trial kit for $100 plus shipping ($20) and used it (1 quart sealer + 1 quart patching stuff) on the tank to try it out. It worked great. I decided by ordering a gallon of the PermaFlex sealer only (for $100+ $25 shipping) without the patching stuff (blue on photo) it will be cheaper. Of course, I can't afford to do all of both tanks or even all of one tank, but am concentrating on doing the places that leak the worst, which I did with that quart. The patching I can do with concrete. Don't need that blue epoxy stuff.

The product is called SaniTred and is a permanent solution for pools, tanks, basements, etc. The expense is the kicker, of course. As far as I know the only major leaks have been in the area I just sealed. Need to expand on it some just to be on the safe side. Water isn't cheap either. I had hoped to use donation money on the road, but decided the tank took priority. I'll sure feel a lot better when it fills up if it has that stuff on it. It's kind of like an epoxy, Comes in two parts you mix together. Of course, they claim it should have two coats. I can see that for a basement or swimming pool, but I think one coat will work for this. I don't need a smooth finish. We'll see. And not to worry, the big tank is still nearly full of water.

I was awakened constantly in the night by a Western Screech Owl calling in the courtyard. I was hoping to find it roosting somewhere this morning, but didn't, so no photos of it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

See thrush.... run

A birder planned to arrive and see the thrush at around 4 PM, but got lost and didn't arrive until 5 PM. The thrush eventually made a brief appearance and then the birder had to leave fast so as not to get lost after dark. In the future I think it's best if people only come in the mornings. One other time someone arrived late afternoon and was so fearful of being in the area after dark, ended up leaving before seeing the thrush. And I finally tacked a sign to the dead cottonwood tree after another birding party failed to see the thrush because they monitored the wrong feeder.

The Red Yucca that had started putting out a lovely bloom froze back. It got down to 19° here last night and may have been colder the night before. But the dumb ash is in the courtyard, where it doesn't get as cold, and it's still leafing right along... so far. Isn't March yet though.

It's unusual for Anna's Hummingbirds to still be around (the Black-chinneds and Lucifers should arrive in a week or two), but I still have 2 females, and possibly a third. Here's a photo of one of them.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Questionable progress

I kept the javelina out last night by wiring heavy logs to the cattle panel.

Now I just have to figure out a way to get myself inside to fill the feeder. Guess I'll have to bring in a couple of ladders.  Another downside is that photos of the thrush have to be taken through the wires. Not good.

See what I mean?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Foiled again!

I spent half of yesterday working on my temporary corn feeder to make it javelina proof. The birds got so tired of waiting for me to leave they finally just came in to it with me there on my hands and knees. I took down the fence and replaced it with what we call "cattle panel." It's really heavy duty and hard to work with, especially down under the bushes.... without help, of course. Here's how it looked at dark last night.

Here is how it looked at daylight this morning.

Back to the drawing board. Maybe I'll try to fill the hole with rocks. It might slow them down.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hand feeding Pyrrhuloxia

My friend, Bonnie Wunderlich, is still feeding her Pyrrhuloxia in her hand.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Throuch potato

I never see the Varied Thrush dashing and darting about the oasis anymore. He just waddles to the feeder and back into the brush. I'm worried that I've created a couch potato. That might not be so good if he is unable, or uninspired, to migrate.....  like, soon.....

Hopefully, he's just building up his reserves because his flight home is going to be much longer than it is in normal years. And maybe he senses he's way out of range and going to need big reserves to make it back.

It's so much fun to have hummingbirds all year long. I can't remember photographing a Rufous Hummingbird in February, so set out to do that today. I wasn't able to get close enough for a good shot. Likely he's banded and has become leery of me.

Yesterday I made a javelina-proof ground feeder, I hope. The birds haven't discovered it yet and as long as the thrush is around I won't remove the temporary trash can feeder, but this one is for the future. The temporary one is in a location that floods. I'll have to remove the plastic bucket from this one and set in a metal one, but for now that's all I had handy. (Mice will enlarge the seed ports eventually on the plastic one.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Whispers of spring

I have this dumb-ash ash tree that blooms and leafs out every February, only to get zapped by frigid cold every March.

Close-up of one bloom-to-be with courtyard wall behind it.

It's a cultivar that I bought 30 years ago before I knew better. It's called Fantex Ash (fraxinus velutina). Oh well, it never complains, so I guess I shouldn't.

That Red Yucca that I posted budding out (Jan 26 post) is growing fast. A result of all that rain we had early last month. But this plant shouldn't be impacted by upcoming freezes. It'll be great to have blooms soon.